Adventure Awaits: Hike on the Longest Trails in the U.S.
Hiking can be a peaceful journey through nature, or a grueling test of endurance depending on your skill level and preparedness. For serious hikers, and maybe some beginners that have been lured by romantic tales of the long hike, these famous long trails have earned their reputations. If you want a serious hiking challenge, you want to “thru-hike”, or hike one of these trails end to end. But for those of you who enjoy a good stretch of the legs and don’t take life (or hiking) so seriously, many of these trails and other scenic trails around the country have more manageable sections for shorter excursions.
Consider one of these for your next hiking adventure:
The Appalachian Trail- Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains
Possibly one of the most famous trails, the Appalachian Trail (AT) was completed in 1937. It stretches from Mt. Springer, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. The official length of the AT is 2,178 miles but this can vary from year to year as sections are sometimes rerouted. At roughly 15-20 miles a day it could take anywhere from four to six months to hike from end to end.
There are shelters along the trail, and way points to register and resupply. Post offices near the route allow a support person back home to ship a drop box containing food, maps and other crucial supplies to meet you along the route. Hikers can also send themselves “bump boxes” where food, maps and supplies are sent to a point further along the trail. There are also points along the trail where hikers can head into town to resupply or to just get off the trail for a night. The Appalachian Trail passes within 100 miles of every major city on the East Coast.
Some interesting traditions have grown in the long distance hiking community: one of these is the trail name. Trail names are nicknames that hikers give themselves or sometimes to each other to use and go by while on the trail. Don’t be surprised to meet some interesting people on the trail, with some interesting names.
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail- Rocky Mountains
The CDNST or CDT for short is a 3,100 mile trail from New Mexico to Montana. It is not as well-known as the Appalachian Trail, and because some sections travel along paved road it is not entirely restricted to unmechanized traffic. The CDT, commissioned in 1978, is considered about 70% completed.
While the AT might see a couple of thousand hikers start out each year, the CDT sees only a couple of dozen. Water access is sparse in some areas and volunteers leave water caches along the route, especially in parts of New Mexico. Far more rustic than the better known AT, facilities are not as well developed. Maps and orienteering experience are a must.
The highest point along the Continental divide trail is one of Colorado’s “14ers”, Grays Peakreaching over 14,200 feet. The majestic views from the spine of the Rocky Mountains, far from the light pollution of major cities, are incomparable, appeals to a rare breed of adventurer.
Pacific Crest Trail- Sierra Nevada Mountains and Cascades
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail takes you the length of the West Coast of the continental U.S. from the U.S.- Canada border in the north to the U.S.- Mexico border in the south. Measuring in at 2,638 miles, it might take a hiker 4-6 months to complete the journey andike with any of these ultra-long trails, many spend 6-9 months planning their trek beforehand as well.
Completing these three hikes, the AT, CDT and PCT, is called the triple crown of hiking. It takes years of commitment to complete.
Have you completed these hikes? Let us know in the comments below!